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Writing criticism: A new world of possibility


Every good writer knows that accepting and using constructive criticism is one of the best ways to improve their craft. Listening to feedback from your peers, teachers, friends, and family will most certainly help you grow as a writer.


Flickr: Pedro Fernandes

But what happens when someone gives you a piece of advice that you don’t agree with? Maybe it comes from someone you don’t know very well and might not trust their thoughts on your work. Or perhaps you do have a high opinion of the person, but you simply disagree with this particular opinion.

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At some point during your writing career, you will receive a piece of advice that you won’t agree with. Everyone has different opinions about what makes good literature. The difficult part is finding a way to use that feedback to improve.

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First, listen to what this person tells you. Really, truly listen, otherwise you might miss out on a really helpful piece of advice. They might continue to say something really valuable, and if you start ignoring them you’ll miss out on it. The intention behind the feedback is probably meant to be helpful to you, so open yourself up to that.

Remember that criticism of your writing isn’t meant to be personal, even if it feels that way sometimes. Reread your piece with their feedback in mind and try to see it through objective eyes. Upon reflection, you might find that this person is actually correct.

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After listening and engaging with your writing, you may still find that you still disagree with the criticism. At this point, you want to dissect what you were told. What area of your writing was addressed? Was it tone, characterization, dialogue, or a certain passage? Look at that area with an objective, critical eye. Even though you might not think the specific piece of advice is valid, there may be another problem. In other words, this criticism might be a misdiagnosis of sorts. Figure out what the problem actually is and fix it.

Another option you have is to take their piece of advice and do what they suggest. Where’s the harm? Start a new file, copy your story over and make the edits (this way, you still have the old version). You might be surprised at the outcome. Or, doing this exercise could reinforce your opinion that the criticism is incorrect. Though you may not end up keeping this new version in its entirety, it’s good to write out of your comfort zone every once in a while.

If you don’t at least entertain each piece of advice you receive, there’s no way you can grow as a writer. Undoubtedly, at some point in your writing career you will be given criticism that you disagree with—but that doesn’t mean you can’t still use it to improve! As writers, we have to constantly be thinking of ways to better our craft. Listening and responding to the criticism of others is one of the best ways to do this.

Lexi Bollis is a student at Kenyon College pursuing an English major with an emphasis in Creative Writing and a double minor in Music and Mathematics. You can find her other writing at Miss Millenia Magazine, Her Campus Kenyon and Geek Insider.

Lexi Bollis

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